Sunday

Looking at Costa Navarino on World Tourism Day

Golf Tourism: Trips undertaken by persons for which the main purpose is to play golf.

You probably didn't know this, but today is World Tourism Day. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of the role of tourism within the international community and to show how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide. I've got to admit, I rarely think about those things when I take a trip.

This "awareness day" might be a good time to look a little more closely at golf tourism which is being developed in more places than ever... often countries with little golf history, and not known for golf travel.

I experienced this on my recent trip to Greece where, up till recently, there had been little thought given to golf...or golf tourists. Greece is known for beautiful beaches and typical island villages, but with only one course serving the 4 million Athenians... and just four others, widely scattered across the country... golfers weren't exactly being courted.

That's clearly changing, however. The infrastructure development that took place leading up to the the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, as well as the exposure that came with international coverage of the games, finally set the stage for golf resort development, and the Spring 2010 opening of Troon Golf's Navarino Dunes, in the Southwest Peloponnese on the Ionian Sea, will be our first glimpse of Greece as an international golf destination.

The course, designed by Hall of Fame golfer Bernhard Langer, will be one of two. It'll be followed by Navarino Bay, signed: Robert Trent Jones II. The courses will be a mere three miles apart, yet dramatically different, each taking advantage of natural attributes in the stunning coastal landscape. Each will have its own clubhouse and golf academy, and the development will include residential real estate as well as cluster of top hotels, including Westin, Banyan Tree and Luxury Collection.

This particular type of development can impact a region - both positively and negatively - more than any other type, with its inherent environmental alterations, water usage issues and traffic implications, and it's reassuring to see that the development company, TEMES SA, is committed to creating something overwhelmingly positive. They're working in conjunction with a number of environmental organizations to protect the natural setting and highlight the region’s unique beauty, the collective aim being to ensure that Costa Navarino becomes a true ecotourism destination, and a catalyst for protection of the environment. A laudable goal and one to celebrate on World Tourism Day.

I'll be bringing you updates on Costa Navarino over the next several months, and hopefully a firsthand look once it opens for golf in late Spring. In the meantime you can follow Costa Navarino yourself on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You may just decide to make Greece your next golf travel destination.